Lionel Richie, Earth, Wind & Fire light it up

INGLEWOOD, Calif (News4usonline) – Old School has its privileges. Old School also rocks. That’s the mood that appeared to be felt by those who attended an Old School throwback celebration with Lionel Richie and Earth, Wind & Fire taking the stage at the Kia Forum for an unforgettable night as part of their “Sing a Song All Night Long” concert tour.  

If you missed this show, you missed a true blessing. It’s a blessing to see two legendary acts on stage. Before he embarked on an incredibly successful solo career, Richie was part of the Commodores, one of the most renowned soul and funk groups that gave the “Hello” singer his musical footing. 

With memorable monster hits like “Brick House,” “Zoom,” “Easy,” “Sail On,” and “Three Times a Lady,” Richie and the Commodores became a staple of neo-soul and funk music throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. 

The only group perhaps bad enough to rival the success that Richie and the Commodores put down was Earth, Wind & Fire. Led by the musical genius of Maurice White, the incomparable falsetto singing of Philip Bailey, and the backing of a majestic band that included Verdine White, Earth, Wind & Fire was able to leave its mark on the music world with hits like “Devotion,” “Reasons,” “After the Love Has Gone,” “Fantasy,” “Boogie Wonderland,” and “September.”       

And so when Richie (doing a solo act) and Earth, Wind & Fire came together on Sept. 15 in Inglewood, California, they brought a whole lot of memories with them. 

The sold-out crowd, which included NBA Hall of Famer and former Los Angeles Lakers great Earvin “Magic” Johnson and his wife, Cookie Johnson, were moved to tears, jumped, danced and moved to seemingly every musical vibe that was produced by the Old School heroes. 

The love and appreciation for both Richie and Earth, Wind & Fire were genuinely heartfelt as people realized that they should fully enjoy the moment at hand. The first album I ever bought was an Earth, Wind & Fire album. I bought the album, “That’s the Way of the World,” out of the sheer audacity that I thought that all these guys looked so cool with their outfits and their giant Afros. I knew nothing about the group’s music. 

That is until I cut open the plastic and opened the album. I was a mere 11 years old at the time that “That’s the Way of the World” came out in 1975. With songs like “Shining Star,” “Happy Feelin’” and “All About Love,” “That’s the Way of the World,” the sound of Earth, Wind & Fire seared into mind as some of the best music I have ever heard. I’ve been a believer in the elements since then. 

With my wife tagging Earth, Wind & Fire as her favorite band, we both were able to receive the musical blessing that Earth, Wind & Fire poured into the hearts of the attendees at the concert. The true power of Earth, Wind & Fire has been its big sound thanks to all the talented musicians, including Verdine White, bringing the noise. 

The band didn’t disappoint. From Verdine White performing an impromptu guitar solo to the mighty sounds of the horn section, the music of Earth, Wind & Fire sounded as good as ever. 

When it comes down to the singing part, the vocal intensity of Bailey is unmatched. Bailey kicked off Earth, Wind & Fire’s moment in the spotlight with a well-received version of “Shiny Star.” 

Singer Lionel Richie performs at the Kia Forum in Inglewood, California. Courtesy photo

He was at his best, however, when he slowed things down to sing the forever love song, “Reasons.” When it comes to slowing things down, Richie has become a master of delivering such music. His longtime musical resume reflects this fact. Between his work with the Commodores and doing his solo thing, Richie has been a leading voice when it comes to love songs. 

Part of Richie’s appeal is that every song he sings sounds like a presentation of genuine affection. Songs like “Still,” “Just to Be Close to You,” “Stuck on You,” and “Truly,” add to Richie’s rich legacy as an all-time crooner. Following behind Earth, Wind & Fire could prove to be a daunting task for many artists. Richie was more than up for the challenge. 

During the first half of his show, Richie dipped more into his solo stuff with a dose of Commodores thrown in every now and then. Richie was able to make his portion of the show successful because of his back-and-forth banter with the audience. 

He talked, laughed and got the crowd engaged with what he was doing. His charm is so irresistible that the man could probably disarm a rattlesnake. 

The second part of Richie’s show was heavy on songs he either created or sang as a member of the Commodores. That certainly seemed to win over a lot of folks, including this writer. Look, I love Richie’s work as a solo artist. He’s great. But I still have a strong infinity for the songs he sang as a member of the Commodores. That music is some good music. 

Being part of the Commodores brought out a lot of Richie’s more deeply soulful numbers. As he delved into “Three Times a Lady,” “Lady,” “Just to Be Close to You,” “Zoom,” and “Brick House,” the memories of yesteryear were in full effect. One of the aspects that stood out about Richie’s performance is that he was absolutely enjoying himself. And that made the night even more special.  

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